Serbs are in love with their new leader. That’s wonderful. And dangerous. Because love is blind. (ALTZAR, July 1989)
Beware of nations that fall in love with their leader.
Because love is blind.
Take Germany in the 1930s, for example. They adored Hitler. They hung on his every word. One million Germans turned out for his May 1, 1933 speech at Templehofer Field in Berlin. They followed him without question.
And look what all that love got them. Seven million dead Germans at the end of World War II.
Or take Serbia in 1989. They also adored Milosevic. They hung on his every word. More than one million Serbs turned out for his Gazimestan speech in Kosovo on June 28, 1989, commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.
And look what all that love got them. Tens of thousands of Serb casualties. Hundreds of thousands of refugees. Loss of Kosovo, the cradle of the Serbian civilization. Separation of the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia. A dismemberment of the centuries old Serbian habitats.
In other words, a disaster.
What brought on this lesson in history?
Russia. Russia is in love with its leader… Putin.
And so are many other people around the world who are disgusted with their own leaders and governments.
RUSSIA IN LOVE… WITH PUTIN
For the last several months, I have been observing an increased popularity of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, both at home and abroad. In Russia, his approval rating had reached nearly 90% even before his decision to commit Russia’s armed forces against ISIS in Syria.
On Facebook, for example, the global weathervane of social status of any person or issue, there are now numerous groups and pages dedicated to Putin.
Like the Vladimir Putin Fan Club, for example, that now boasts nearly 90,000 members. Which is huge group number by Facebook group standards. The George Clooney Fan Club, for example, as 1,571 members,
The trouble is, the Putin Club is carefully censored, so that only favorable comments and articles get through.
And that – censorship – is the first telltale sign of a love gone blind. Or a dictatorship reincarnate. Because the only way we can learn and progress is through diversity of opinions.
That’s not democracy. That’s just being human. We humans have been designed to crave freedom. Which includes freedom of expression.
Just over a year ago, I published an editorial on Putin – “IS PUTIN NAIVE OR COY?, NOVEMBER 3, 2014).
Here are the two bullet-conclusions from this piece:
- “There is no greater enemy to the mob leaders than when one of them turns rogue.” (Truth in Media)
- “That Putin is now badmouthing the club of which he used to be a member sounds more like sour grapes of a jolted lover than rebellious statesmanship” (Truth in Media)
Perhaps Putin has sobered up in a year and a month since this article was published. Perhaps he has also contemplated the lessons history can offer, such as the Hitler and Milosevic examples.
The only way we will know for sure is if he starts dismantling this hero-worshipping personality cult and frenzy that has gripped Russia at the present time. And also some of the rest of the world.
Should Putin do so, and should he force diversity of opinions in the Russian and global media to be freely voiced, then this writer will be also prepared to give him a nod.
But if he just sits back and enjoys his current popularity, watch out. There’ll be assassins with knives lurking in the shadows. Just as with Julius Caesar and many other popular leaders in the past.
In February 1992, during a long meeting with the then Serbian President Milosevic at his office in Belgrade two months before the Bosnian war broke out, I tried to tell him that.
“One day, you might be tried for war crimes,” I warned him.
He shrugged and smiled dismissively.
(see Milosevic: “A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma”, June 1998).
BACKGROUND AND PREFACE/EPILOGUE
I left my birthplace, the former country of Yugoslavia illicitly, without an exit visa. I emigrated to North America via Switzerland. I did it because I feared that, as one of the leaders of the student rebellion against the communist government in June 1968, it was just a matter of time before I were be arrested or hampered in my career. Because I left illegally, I never expected to return.
But return I did. As it turned out, my self-imposed exile lasted two decades. By 1989, communism was crumbling even in the Soviet Union.
In May 1989, I received an invitation from the Yugoslav government to attend an international business conference in Belgrade. I accepted it, reluctantly, not trusting the Milosevic communist government more than Tito’s. But now as a successful American businessman, I was welcomed back home as a prodigal son, red carpet and all.
TWENTY SIX YEARS AGO…
ALTZAR’S EDITORIAL COMMENT
July 23, 1989
SERBIA IN LOVE!
“It seems to me as if the Serbs in Yugoslavia are now living in a time capsule. As if they are frantically trying to make up for the last 45 years of their history of which Tito’s (communist) anti-Serbian policies have deprived them…
In other words, the Serbs are in love; in love with their heritage, and in love with their new leader – (Slobodan) Milosevic.
That’s wonderful. And dangerous, too. Just ask a teenage girl…
By the way, that’s also how Americans felt about George Washington after the Treaty of Paris (1783) restored our own hard-fought-for rights of which a British dictator (George III, the king) had deprived them.
Indeed, euphoria that follows liberation can be as intoxicating as the first love. But ‘love is blind,’ as they say. And (without intending any harm to the handicapped) – who wants to follow a blind person?”
At the time (back in 1989-1990), Milosevic had a 90% approval rating in Serbia, about the same as Putin in Russia now. In fact, Milosevic was so popular in Serbia that this writer suffered the wrath of even his own family over the above editorial comments.
Thus he felt the need to explain and defend his stance in the Aug. 6, 1990 and Sep. 22, 1990 letters that follow:
ONE YEAR LATER, July 31, 1990
PHOENIX, July 31, 1990 – During the 12 months since my “Marketing of Serbia” essay was written (on July 23, 1989 – see above), I have been trying to figure out if Slobodan Milosevic was a. was a Communist masquerading as a Serbian nationalist, or a Serbian nationalist masquerading as a Communist.
After my meeting with him last January (1990), I was leaning toward the latter possibility. But after my visit to Belgrade in June (1990), during which I saw what was billed as “the first opposition parties’ rally in 45 years” – after Milosevic’s sudden call for a referendum in late June; after his Hitler-like dissolution of the Kosovo parliament; and after his election as president of the ‘new’ Socialist Party of Serbia – I don’t think that there is much room for doubt left. He may be a genuine Serbian nationalist. But so was Hitler – a genuine German nationalist!
In other words, Milosevic seems to be first and foremost a dictator, now masquerading as a democracy-loving socialist – so as to keep his job!
“Serbia is still led by retreads from the Communist Party who have neither moral nor practical authority to carve ‘a place under the sun,’ for our people,” agreed (the late) Dr. Milorad Draskovic of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
FIVE YEARS LATER, July 23, 1994
My reporting from Bosnia and Serbia as war correspondent, meetings with Mladic, Karadzic, betrayal by Milosevic, Serbian sanctions; one year later (1995), Bosnian Serbs start to lost the war they had in their hands in July 1993. NATO to bomb them next month and finish them off.
On Dec 14, 1995, the Dayton Peace Accord is signed in Paris, ending the Bosnian war. And kicking off the next phase of the New World Order’s war on Serbia and Milosevic.
TEN YEARS LATER, July 23, 1999
NATO attacks Serbia and bombs the country for 78 days (Mar 24 – June 6, 1999).
A year later (2000), it is the beginning of the end for Milosevic.
ELEVEN YEARS LATER, Sep 24, 2000
On 24 September 2000, Milošević was defeated in the first round In the five-man presidential race. The election was won by the opposition leader Vojislav Koštunica, who won slightly more than 50% of the vote. Milošević initially refused to acquiesce, claiming that no one had won a majority.
The Yugoslav constitution called for a runoff between the top two candidates in the event that no candidate won more than 50% of the vote. Official results put Koštunica ahead of Milošević but at under 50 percent. The internationally financed CeSID claimed otherwise, though its story changed throughout the two weeks between 24 September and 5 October.This led to mass demonstrations in Belgrade on 5 October, known as the Bulldozer Revolution.
Milošević was forced to accept this when commanders of the army who he had expected to support him had indicated that in this instance they would not, and would permit the violent overthrow of the Serbian government. On 6 October, Milošević met with Koštunica and publicly accepted defeat. Koštunica finally took office as Yugoslav president on 7 October following Milošević’s announcement.
TWELVE YEARS LATER, June 28, 2001
Milošević was arrested by Yugoslav authorities on April 1, 2001 following a 36 hour armed standoff between police and Milošević’s bodyguards at his Belgrade villa. He was sent to the Hague for prosecution of alleged war crimes on June 28, 2001, exactly 12 years after his greatest triumph – a speech at Gazimestan, Kosovo to a crowd of about one million people – commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.
SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER – DEATH, Mar 11, 2006
Milosevic died in his cell at the Hague War Crimes Tribunal prison on Mar 11, 2006 allegedly of a heart attack. But Milosevic had complained days before that he was being poisoned.
The drug found in Milosevic’s blood both two weeks before and after his death is a powerful antibiotic known as Rifampicin, used to treat serious bacterial infections like tuberculosis, leprosy and Legionnaire’s disease. Rifampicin is known to interfere with medications Milosevic was taking for high blood pressure.
Milosevic wrote a letter, dated March 8, to the Russian government, saying that on March 7, he received a report that “an extremely strong drug” was found in his blood and that doctors were treating him wrongly to silence him. His lawyer, Mr. Tomanovic, said Mr. Milosevic feared that he was being poisoned.
Mr. Tomanovic said he had delivered this letter, accompanied by a handwritten note from Mr. Milosevic, to the Russian Embassy in The Hague on Friday morning. He was found dead the next morning (Mar 11, 2006).
On Mar 31, 2006, a United Nations investigation into the death of Slobodan Milosevic found no evidence of foul play or suicide.
Meanwhile, Milosevic was the 6th person who died at the UN War Crimes Tribunal prison at the Hague. All six were Serbs. They ranges in ages from 50 to 64.
(see “Who Says There’s No Death Penalty at the Hague?” –
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UPDATE APRIL 3, 2016
RUSSIAN PUTIN FAN GROUP CENSORSHIP